Articles of Colombian jewelry: Calima diadem, Lime-dipper etc

Articles of Colombian jewelry

Calima diadem

Calima diademA type of head-dress, called a ‘diadem’, in the form of a high (c. 28-35 cm), flat, cut-out ornament of hammered sheet gold with decoration of an anthropomorphic face and various motifs in «repousse» work They are chased, often have nose and ear ornaments made separately and stapled to the central face, and also often have pendent cylindrical ornaments.
(Upper photo)

Darien pectoral

A type of gold pectoral of pre-columbian jewelry in the form of an anthropomorphic figure having spiral-ornamented upright wings beside the face, broad straight legs, flat feet, a head-dress surmounted by two hallucinogenic mushrooms (or bell-shaped objects, suggesting the humorous name sometimes applied, ‘telephone gods’) and usually a pair of stick-like batons or pipes held to the mouth.

The forms vary considerably, some being naturalistic, others very stylized; some of the figures wear a mask, some have a head like that of an alligator or jaguar, and some have over the breast a row of cut-out birds.

Although the pieces have been found mainly in the Sinu region of Colombia, bordering the Darien Isthmus, they have been found in many other regions of Colombia, and exported examples or local copies are known from Panama, Costa Rica, and Yucatan, Mexico. The pieces (sometimes called ‘bat gods’) were made of cast gold or tumbaga, the height varying from 5 to 25 cm.

Effigy flask

An article of pre-columbian jewelry in the form of a small flask decorated on the front with the representation of a human figure and having the two sides indented to form what seems to be a handgrip.
Such pieces are sometimes depicted being worn on figures made as a pectoral.

They are examples of Qumbaya jewelry. Their use is unknown but it has been suggested that they may have contained a hallucinogenic substance used in religious rites.


A long, thin object of pre-columbian jewelry, being a type of narrow spatula or blunt pin, made of cast gold, with an ornate head, used to remove the powdered lime from a popora. They ranged from about 15 cm to 45 cm long and the heads were of a great variety of forms, e.g. a bird, warrior, bell, funnel, or masked anthropomorphic figure.

Penis sheath

An article of pre-columbian jewelry worn by the Indians. Examples are known in 2 forms:
– a wide-mouth, funnel-shaped cover, sometimes with a suspensory loop attached at the rim,
– a narrow elongated tapering cover.
Such articles were made of gold in the Tairona and Sinu regions of Colombia, and examples have been reported in Cocle jewelry from Panama.

tweezer inca jewelry native inca jewelry native mochica jewelry mochica jewelry

Quimbaya Treasure

A treasure of 121 items of Qumbaya jewelry and other articles, dating from perhaps 400-1000, found in 1891 in two graves at Le Soledad, Filandia, in the Quimbaya region of Colombia. It was presented in 1892 by Colombia to the Queen of Spain and is now kept in the Museo de America, Madrid; pieces from the Treasure were first seen outside Spain at the El Dorado Exhibition in London in 1978.

A characteristic form of decoration on poporas (lime flasks) is the depiction of men and women, modelled in the round, nude except for replicas of jewelry, which sometimes includes a suspended popora; the small feet of the figures extend outward to lend stability to the flasks.



is a small, gold bottle (‘lime flask’) generally in the form of an anthropomorphic male or female figure, usually seated, and used, mainly in the Quimbaya region of Colombia, to contain powdered lime (made from shells) for mixing with coca leaves which the Indians carried in bags and chewed as a religious practice, keeping a wad in the cheek throughout the day. The flasks had a cover with a hole through which a thin spatula (Lime dipper) was kept for using the lime.

The flasks were worn slung around the neck, as shown on gold figures wearing replicas of them. The figures were in many forms, including warriors with bow and arrows, nobles wearing a pendant, necklace, and sceptre, and women sometimes holding a baby; the figures were nude except for replicas of jewelry. Some of the figures carry small snuff trays to hold the yopo (narcotic snuff) that they sniffed. Some flasks are in the form of a globular container.


tweezerA depilatory tweezer of which examples are found in pre-columbian jewelry, some in Calima jewelry from Colombia and some in Peruvian jewelry.

Such articles are sometimes in the form of a simple unadorned bent-over strip of metal (about 4 to 9.5 cm long), with the terminals extended in a crescent shape; but some ornate examples have the front arm in the form of an anthropomorphic figure wearing a diadem, earrings, and nose ornament.


is a small anthropomorphic votive figure (usually triangular) made by the Indians of the Muisca region of Colombia, always cast of gold or tumbaga, with the details of the features and apparel outlined in false filigree made by the wax threads on the models. The figures depict an individual in some routine occupation, but a few examples show groups in a genre scene.

Such pieces were used as an offering to the gods, to propitiate or thank them, by being thrown into the sacred Lake Guatavita or buried in a funerary pot. Pilgrims to the lake used them in such large quantity that they were made in the Muisca region by a mass production method, using a matrix stone with the design carved on it for stamping many wax models for casting.

The pieces were usually dull and roughly finished, perhaps because the subject matter was more important than the workmanship, but also because Muisca goldsmiths did not coat their wax models with charcoal and water to provide a smooth casting. The most remarkable piece is a gold representation, made of Muisca jewelry, of a ceremonial raft used by each ‘El Dorado’ upon his installation, showing him and other figures.